Goin’ to the Zoo zoo zoo

Have you guys heard that children’s song, We’re going to the Zoo, zoo, zoo… How ’bout you, you, you? The kids love that song. There are several versions online, but we love the old one the best.  I never thought that we’d be the kind of family that listens to kids songs, but we do, and we love it.  The day before our planned zoo trip, our kids were PUMPED with this song. Yes, we’re a corny family, I know!

This post is about visiting the Atlanta Zoo. Surprise, right? We made a great investment in an anual  zoo pass last February, and we decided to put it to good use for the fifth time this season and go with our neighbors this time. Dan has MLK day off, and so does our neighbor Jenn’s husband Chris, so we decided to take advantage and have a family day with some friends!

It was a chilly morning, but it warmed up in the afternoon and it turned out to be beautiful.  Chris and Jenn have two boys, one that is Parker’s age, and one that is in-between Mason and Sienna’s age.  The kids had a lot of fun playing together!

I got to try out some new settings on my camera, and shot primarily in Manual mode with a low ISO and an F stop of about 2 or 2.5. I love the blur of the lower F stop or 1.8, but I’m finding that I also get a lot more blur when the subject isn’t perfectly still. It was fun to practice!


Their favorite part of the zoo every visit has to be the petting zoo and the zoo’s playground area.  Visit those two spots, and they’re in HEAVEN!


The kids certainly had some grumpy moments, but overall we made some fun memories!


Day in the life

My typical week looks something like this…

Workouts. Every Monday, Wednesday and Friday. I take Les Mills Body Pump class and I run a mile beforehand on the treadmill in the morning. Sometimes if I’m running late, I don’t get time to do the treadmill, but most of the time, I can squeeze in a mile or if I’m lucky, over a mile.

On Tuesdays I have Storytime with Sienna and Mason at the local library and then we all play at home,  I start washing clothes, and tidying up the house until it’s time to pick up Parker at 12:45

On Wedneday after the gym I have laundry. Lots of laundry. Typically takes me all day long. This is when I take all the clothes that were washed the day prior and sort, fold, hang, etc. Fortunately, the boys have become very helpful in this area and they both now put away and hang up their own clothes! We also have small group on Wednesday nights and we’re doing a parenting study now and it’s going great, but that also means squeezing in reading two chapters a week and answering questions to prepare for our discussion.

Thursdays have just changed to another gym day, and I’ve so far done Body Combat and RPM (stationary bike) class. Another workout in the morning and then back home to play with Mason and Sienna since Mason is home from preschool on Tues and Thurs.

After the boys get home from preschool we all have lunch, and Mama gets a break. Mason and Sienna take their nap and Parker either takes a nap in his room or takes the time to look at his pen books or have some alone time playing quietly while the others nap.  After naps, we try to play outside if weather permits. It’s hard to do so on Wednesdays because I’m typically still in laundry madness trying to get everything sorted and hung. Otherwise, we’re either outside or playing in the playroom together.  The boys LOVE to have dance parities. Their favorite musician is the Laurie Berkner Band. They LOVE the “I’m going to catch you” song!

Once the kids go to bed, I get time with Dan at night. Right now, we’ve really enjoying snugging up on the sofa and watching the Walking Dead series.  Sometimes he likes to have his guy shows that he watches, or shoot his bow in the basement while I blog, edit photos, read,  or catch up on a girlie show (Bachelor, Parenthood, etc.). It’s healthy to have time alone as well as together.  Sometimes if we’re lucky, we get a date night, a girls night, or a guys night out.

Life is busy. Work outs. Carpool drop-offs and pickups. Kids running around without pants. Grocery shopping. Playing dress-up. Messy playrooms. Books before bed. Tantrums. Hugs. Building a “lego city”.  Riding bikes and playing outside. Washing dishes. Watching their favorite show. Making lunches. Cleaning. Meal planning. Cooking.  Goodnight kisses. Repeat.

The life of a stay-at-home Mom means running a household and making sure it not only runs smoothly, but with love and patience. Reminding ourselves that grace is needed for ourselves, our kids, and our marriage.  Being intentional about serving others, bringing God into our everyday conversations, leaning on him for strength, making sacrifices, and above all being grateful for where you are in this stage of life.

What does your day look like? I’d love to see a blog post from my readers!!

New Years and Monster Jam

This year our New Year’s Eve was pretty low key. I made dinner of Chicken Teriyaki with fun 2015 shaped bread that I saw on Pinterest.
Afterward, we decided to meet up with the neighbors and roast marshmallows by the fire, shoot off small fireworks, sparklers and just enjoy conversation. The wine I drank at dinner made me tired so I didn’t last long outside with the neighbors. After we went in and put the kids to bed, I went back out for a little bit, then I came inside and ended up falling asleep watching Walking Dead. Dan ended up waking me just after midnight to kiss and wish happy New Year. We’re officially an old married couple! All that said, it was still a fun night.
I decided to play with my camera a bit that night since I was still learning the new settings of the camera I got for Christmas. I played with the settings to see if I could achieve a sparkly-blur effect with a slower shutter speed while we were playing with sparklers. It turned out okay. Still learning!


For Christmas this year, we got my brother Spencer, my sister-in-law Lisa, and our nephews Zane and Gavin tickets to Monster Jam.  They came down from Greenville to stay with us, and we really enjoyed spending time with them, and going to the Monster Jam event!



Lisa is so amazingly talented, and it was so nice to take some time to pick her brain about camera settings, what she’s learned, tips and tricks, etc. She’s so smart and I just love that she has been blessed with so much creativity and knowledge and that she’s willing to share it.  It was a great time visiting with family!

Parker, Mason and Sienna opened their Christmas presents from Aunt Lili and Uncle Spence and they loved them! The boys got Monster trucks and Sienna got a sweet little ballerina doll. Great memories this weekend!

As a side note, I updated my “What I ♥” (about me) page above. You may want to check that out, especially if you’re new to my blog!


No more diapers

Over five years of kids in diapers in our house, and we’re finally done. Santa left some potty related items under the Christmas tree and we thought the holidays would be a great time to get her interested.  Dan is home from work for two weeks, we’re stuck mostly indoors because of chilly weather and a plethora of toys, so selfishly WE decided it was the right time.

She took well to it. Not right away, but after some persistent persuasion she complied. A few “Frozen” jelly beans may have helped a bit.  After day three, we could put her on the potty and ask her to go and she would try.  She’s still working on going poop on the potty, but she’s got the peepee down!  We can take her to the gym or anywhere out and about, and she’s good to go for the most part.


After years of kiddos in cloth diapers it feels strange to not be using cloth, and to leave the house without diapers! It seems like my sweet baby girl is growing up so fast, and has turned into a big girl overnight.  I’m so proud of her for mastering this milestone! She’s one amazing girl!

Enjoying Traditions New and Old


The days leading up to Christmas were a lot of fun. We enjoyed a lot of traditions that we’ve started since we’ve had kids, and also tried some new things that may become new traditions. It was a great time to gather with friends and family and celebrate over the holiday season.

The first tradition we love to do every year, and it’s usually the first thing we do, is get a tree from Kinsey Farms. We just love that family farm, and this year was no different.  Hot chocolate, roasting marshmallows (with a two year old, who wanted to dive in, it was a bit of a disaster, but otherwise fun), enjoying the crisp cool fall weather. It was perfect. We also enjoyed eating at Rice, a Chinese restaurant that had delicious food not far from the farm that we’ve made it a tradition to go to every year after picking up our tree. We also did an artificial tree this year in the formal dining room. I had been wanting to do one since we moved in, but this year we decided we’d go for it. I’m really into gold accents these days, so this tree so this tree was a great way to showcase my taste.. The sunroom tree is a tacky family tree with homemade or school made ornaments, and ones we’ve gotten from places we’ve been, and we love it.


We enjoyed our first Christmas program at Parkway Presbyterian Preschool where Parker and Mason’s attend. We were so excited that Parker got selected to be Joseph in the school nativity. He loved his role! Mason sang with his class too and the entire program was super cute!




We have really come to love our local library. Not only have Sienna and Mason really taken to their story time every week on Tuesdays, but they also offer fun events in December! We signed up for the Polar Express pajama Party for the first time this year, and all the kids just loved it! They had hot chocolate, cookies, Polar Express story reading, crafts, and a visit from Santa himself! It was so fun, and definitely a tradition that we will have for years to come.


Another fun tradition that I like to do with the kids, one I’ve done with Parker ever since he was a toddler, is go to the Alpharetta Community Center for Cookies with the Clauses. They have such a cute program there with the free pictures with Mr. and Mrs.Clause, crafts, cookie decorating, dancing, etc. We’ve always met up with friends each year too, which has been a lot of fun. Yeah, so Sienna wasn’t a huge fan of Santa.That’s okay though, it made for fun pictures! My Mom came as well, and we enjoyed spending time with her while we were there, and she’s always such a great help with the kids too. The thing that is a little sad though, is that Parker will be in Kindergarten next year, so he will likely miss Cookies with the Clauses next year! So crazy how time flies. Soaking in the memories!

This is Dan’s second year working at Airwatch. After the amazing Christmas party they hosted last year, I was excited to see what would be in store this year. They rented out the entire World of Coke and it was amazing! They had an open bar where you could bring the soda from the soda dispensers from around the world to the bartender, and they would mix it with your liquor of choice in an ice block with slushy ice inside! How amazing is that? As if that wasn’t fun enough, they had a room for Karaoke, which was very entertaining, they had tables and tables of beautifully decorated miniature deserts for the taking. Servers with food trays asking you if you’d like an appetizer. We were pretty full when we arrived because we met up with Dan’s co-worker Zach and his wife Alissa for dinner beforehand at The Westin Sundial restaurant. I was a nice start to the evening and it just got better from there. My amazing Mom babysat the kids for us, and we made a last minute decision to grab a hotel downtown instead of heading home afterwards. That way we could sleep in after our late night and get a good breakfast before heading back home. It was so much fun getting dressed up and having a fun night out with Dan. We had a really nice time.

I also enjoyed a few parties with friends, my girlfriend Danielle put on a great party with a “favorite things” theme at her place in Woodstock. I met a lot of fun girls, and we had a really fun night.  That same weekend, we attended a neighborhood party that got a little silly, and we had a really nice time there too. It’s been so fun to get to know our neighbors and know that we’re surrounded by people just as fun and crazy as we think we are.



We had a nice time Christmas Eve with the family. We always keep with tradition and we attend the Christmas Eve service at Stonecreek Church with my Mom and sister Amanda and we had a nice dinner beforehand. The kids had fun at Aunt Angie’s house opening all their gifts from family members. Can you say toy OVERLOAD? They each got a laundry bag (santa sack) full of toys. It was crazy.

Year after year, it never gets old though. I just love being with the family for the holidays! I got to use my tripod I got for Christmas a few years ago to get  a nice family shot. The lighting was tricky, but at least it’s clear enough to see! That’s the most important part. With my grandmother having cancer in her liver, only the Lord knows how many Christmas Eves we’ll have with her. She is so amazing and we are cherishing every bit of time that God is giving her on earth.  We finished the night with setting out cookies and “reindeer food” for Santa.  The boys enjoy giving “Quackenshelf”, our elf, a hug on Christmas Eve. Since that makes him lose his magic, we had to leave a note for Santa to pick him up on his sleigh on his way to the North pole when he dropped off the gifts. Of course, right? Ha!

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We had such a nice time with the family Christmas Eve. The fun didn’t stop there. We had a full day of Christmas surprises for everyone.  We strapped the contour camera on top of Parker’s head and asked him to walk downstairs and tell us if Santa came.  Ah… the memories! My favorite time of year!

Here’s the lowdown on the a few of the major Christmas surprises

Daddy: Small .22 handgun, 75th anniversary Red Ryder BB gun, Teavana raw tea brewing set

Mommy: New Cannon 70D base (Dan used his hilton points to get Best Buy gift cards, I had NO idea this was coming!), a Michael Kors large leather tote handbag (love it!), Lots of LUSH products (my fav!)

Parker: New ipad configured with his fav educational games, remote control spider (his santa request), Nerf gun, leapfrog interactive watch

Mason: New ipad configured with his fav educational games, Smokey the fire truck (his santa request), Nerf gun, remote control monster truck,

Sienna: New tricycle, Elsa and Anna dolls (her santa request), magna-tiles in fun pink and purple colors

The boys also got geodes in their stocking, and Parker and Daddy really enjoyed cracking those open outside to see what they looked like!

One thing that I really love to do on Christmas day is cook. I try to make what I can ahead of time, but this was what our holiday menu looked like this year.

Breakfast: Monkey bread muffins, ham and cheese omelet, strawberries

Lunch: Mini hot dog wrapped in crescent rolls, crackers and cheese spread, fruit salad

Dinner: Roasted Turkey breast (came out DEE-LISH), mashed potatoes and gravy, and stuffing

Dessert: Chocolate Peanut butter Pudding pie.

I know, not the healthiest, but it’s not supposed to be! It’s Christmas!  We invited Dan’s friend he works with, over for dinner as well. He is single and has no local family, and we didn’t want him to be alone.  Not sure being with our crazy family was much better, but at least it was something. I had a steady flow of wine and treats throughout the day, and I was feeling good. It was a great day with the family. Everyone was happy! I am so thankful for these moments. These memories. This blessing of special holidays with our family. I hope I never take it for granted!

Losing a sister

It’s been hard to be a weekly or even monthly blogger lately. These last few months have been especially busy. Along with the craziness that December typically is, with planning and attending parties, cooking, visiting family, Christmas shopping, etc. the last thing that I was prepared for was the death of my step-sister, Lisa.
2014 year has been the year of deaths for our family. I had never in my life been to a funeral, and then I went to my first funeral in the spring in Va for my Grandfather, and then Dan’s grandmother Ming died, and we traveled to Colorado in the summer, and then I got some very sad news about my step-sister Lisa on December 10th, that she had passed away.

Lisa and I weren’t as close as we had been as kids, but it was a huge shock to hear of her passing. The toxicology results are still pending, and they have yet to determine the cause of death. What we do know is that she wasn’t feeling well, and that she had been on pain medicine from her back surgery in the past, and had continued to use it for pain relief. Her medication usage, along with some preexisting health conditions (infection in her foot, diabetes, asthma, sleep apnea) and her general well being (her friend mentioned that she had recently had the flu) is the best guess we have for her cause of death. She was found unresponsive at a friends house in the morning.

It’s really heartbreaking. She was only 36 years old and had so much life to live. So much she wanted to do, dreams that went unfulfilled. That week between her death and the funeral was tough for me and I can only imagine how tough it was for her mother. It was a time of reflecting on the good times we had together as kids, the time we spent together as adults, and wondering if I made it clear enough how much I loved her and how much of a good person she was. I wanted to do something in her memory, so I decided to make Memory Boards in her honor to have at the funeral, and for her mother Rennie to keep.


I struggled with whether or not I was going to talk at the funeral. Those that know me well know that I am not very comfortable with public speaking. You know, some people have their gifts, and I just know public speaking isn’t one of mine. It’s just not my favorite thing to do. I much rather be where I am right now, typing my thoughts down on screen, so I can hit the backspace at will, and delete and restate the thought more clearly and concisely if I need to.

However, the craziest thing happened the morning of her funeral. I woke up, and I felt like God was giving me clarity on what to say. I told Dan and I quickly walked over to my writing desk, and wrote down exactly what I felt like the holy spirit was telling me to say. Nothing super-inspiring, just a few sentiments from the heart. More importantly, he gave me a peace about speaking in front of a group, and I was no longer nervous. The holy spirit gave me a calm reassurance and that peace carried me through to the podium.
This is what I wrote down and said:

When Rennie and my Dad married, Lisa and I became sisters.  I was a young girl at the time, and we were both excited to have this new found sisterhood.

She was so accepting of me, loving and caring. Coming from a single Dad and a brother (and somewhat of a Tomboy) she helped to turn me into a girl and showed me the world of hairspray and teased bangs- only things a good big sister would do.

She later moved on to live with her Dad but we never lost touch. We later reunited when I moved back to Atlanta and I eventually got married.  She was always very supportive. I recall on my wedding day,  her pointing to me and proudly saying with a smile ‘That’s my sister!’.

The busyness of life got to me several years later and after three kids the visits became less frequent. However, she loved being an Aunt, she loved our kids very much, and we loved seeing her, even though it wasn’t as frequent as we would’ve liked.

Lisa had quite a few challenges in her life between her health and her relationships, but she never lost hope.  It comforts me to know that she is now resting in the arms of Jesus. Free from pain, and feeling the most wonderful love of all, the everlasting love  of our heavenly father.

We all know how much Lisa loved Winne the pooh, so after looking through her pinterest boards, I found this quote that she pinned and I see it quite fitting.

‘If there ever comes a day when we can’t be together, keep me in your heart and I’ll stay there forever’7c280f6408ad3956851106431b302c30


What happened to Lisa is tragic. Death has a funny way of forcing you to think about life, how precious it really is, and it also forces you to stare at your faith right in it’s face. Do you believe in me? Do you trust in me? Do you have faith in life after death? It brings this questions that I would venture to say EVERY human asks, and it makes you face them. Ponder them. Mourn those facing the afterlife and wonder what it’s all about. Grasping at what it teaches us to be human and have the human experience.  It’s hard.

Those of you that reached out and called, and messaged, sent flowers, and gift cards for dinner. THANK YOU. It is a hard time in our household with lots and lots of sadness and reflection.  It is comforting when you are reminded of the goodness in life when you’re feeling loads of sadness.

Lisa Seymour Shrader, you will be missed. XO

Visit to Greenville and Thanksgiving

Playing Catch-up

We had been planning for a few years to visit my brother Spencer, sister-in- law Lisa, and two nephews Zane and Gavin in Greenville, but it just wasn’t easy to make plans with the little ones because there were always naps and the dread of extended time in the car.  However, now that the kids are older, we decided to go for it and make the trip in early November to visit with them and enjoy the weekend.

It was very low-key, and perfect. We visited downtown, had lunch, rolled down the grassy hill with the kids, laughed and talked. The weather was perfect and we had the best time catching up and enjoying time with one another. I look forward to the next time we can visit with them!


Thanksgiving this year was pretty typical of years past.  We enjoyed snuggling up with the family on the sofa and watching the Thanksgiving Day Parade. I made yummy mac and cheese that I got the recipe from here and also mashed potatoes.  We headed over to my Aunt Angie’s house for a family gathering and we had a nice time with the family! The mac and cheese bake was a big hit, so if anyone is looking for a recipe that is both yummy and EASY (I’m all about easy!) then this one comes highly recommended!

The evening of Thanksgiving Quackenshelf (a name Parker gave him when he first came to our home three years ago) arrived and brought the kids PJs. They loved  seeing their old pal, and reading the Elf on the Shelf book in their new jamies!


It was the best way to start off the holiday season!